Michael Bay’s remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is, sadly, a disappointing experience.
Wes Craven’s original film spawned a host of sequels, a TV spin-off as well countless book and comic appearances for Freddy Krueger who became one of Horror’s most enduring icons. Lucky then for the producers that this film has an existing legacy it can catch a ride on because, sorry to say it, it’d be unlikely to create one of its own.
Rather than follow the Superman Returns path and tell a sort-of sequel which hints at the past while allowing room to head off in new directions, the film needlessly returns to the start of the story with Freddy scaring the youths of Springwood for the very first time.
I’m not a huge fan of Hollywood’s current obsession to revisit the origins of every successful franchise but if you really have to go back to the start at least do something different to what went before.
This film is the worst kind of reboot, it resets the clock on the story but then has the majority of the plot and action simply follow the original without adding anything new.
There’s a number of familiar moments including the infamous scene of Freddy’s hand appearing in Nancy’s bathtub plus the one where Freddy hauls one of his victims around a room and against the ceiling. As in the original this leads to the boyfriend (here played by Thomas Dekker in another pouty, sullen role) being accused of her murder.
Amid this slavish adherence to the original Nightmare, the producers have taken the decision to change Nancy’s surname from Thompson to Holbrook. Did they think substituting a rarely used surname would somehow blind the audience to the fact they’d seen everything the film has to offer before?
Where the film does step away from the source material the result is to diminish itself. The decision to exclude the character of Nancy’s father – the local police lieutenant – robs the final confrontation between her and Freddy of much of the tension and drama present in the original.
In addition, whereas in the original it was at times difficult to know whether events were taking place in the dream or real world, here’s it’s blatantly obvious, reducing the potential for tension and surprise. The result is to leave the audience counting down to Freddy’s inevitable appearance rather than wondering if he’ll appear at all.
Rooney Mara’s depressive Nancy is disappointingly uncharismatic, there’s none of the pluck and spirit typical of the horror genre heroine and, as are all the characters, she’s too naive of the events going on around her for a post-Scream audience.
On the plus side there are some genuinely scary moments which are likely to have much of the audience leaping out of their seats and, labouring under some occasionally unexpressive prosthetics, Jackie Earle Haley turns in a good performance as Freddy despite the decision to over-process his voice in post production.
A Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t truly awful, it’s just a rather shallow and uninspired reshooting of a vastly superior original which offers less satisfaction than even the weakest of the original sequels.
There’s huge scope to revitalise the Nightmare franchise but this film sadly doesn’t do it. If you don’t already own it your money would be better spent on a copy of Craven’s massively more entertaining original.